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Litchman Receives Hutchinson Award for Scientific Excellence in Aquatic Ecology

Foamy water on a beach

Elena Litchman, professor of aquatic ecology at Michigan State University, is the recipient of the 2021 G. Evelyn Hutchinson Award from the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO).

Headshot of Elena Litchman, she is wearing a white and black top, with short brown hair.

Elena Litchman, MSU Foundation Professor of aquatic ecology, is the recipient of the 2021 Evelyn Hutchinson Award from the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography. Credit: Harley J. Seeley

The Hutchinson award is presented each year to a limnologist or oceanographer who has made considerable contributions to knowledge, and whose future work promises a continued legacy of scientific excellence.

“Displaying exceptional depth and breadth in her scientific endeavours, Dr. Litchman exemplifies a highly impactful and seasoned mid-career aquatic scientist,” said ASLO President, Roxane Maranger. “Perhaps most impressive has been her ability to cross scientific boundaries, including the fresh-salty divide.”

“I am honored, humbled and very grateful to ASLO for this award, said Litchman, an MSU Foundation professor who is a W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) faculty member with a joint appointment in the MSU Department of Integrative Biology (IBIO) in the College of Natural Science. “It is especially exciting to me that the award is named after G. Evelyn Hutchinson, whose work has been a huge inspiration throughout my career. I look forward to continuing my research toward a more mechanistic and predictive microbial community ecology.”

Litchman is perhaps best known for her seminal work developing a trait-based approach for the study of plankton ecology. Application of the trait-based framework—originally described in terrestrial plant ecology—to phytoplankton community dynamics has been transformational for the field. Litchman’s 2007 and 2008 papers, which were the first to describe the trait-based approach for phytoplankton communities, have been collectively cited more than 1,000 times.

Since then, Litchman has seamlessly integrated observational, experimental, and theoretical methods and approaches to understanding plankton community structure and function across freshwater and marine environments. Litchman continues to apply this framework to answer important questions in phytoplankton ecology, such as impacts of climate change on communities, with a research program that is both highly collaborative and international in nature.

“Michigan State is extremely proud that Dr. Litchman is receiving this prestigious award from the world’s leading aquatic science society,” said Fredric Janzen, KBS director. “Her work continues our tradition of more than 50 years of research on phytoplankton, and many other aspects of aquatic ecology, while being distinctive in venturing beyond freshwater into marine ecosystems as well. Dr. Litchman’s work is deeply thoughtful and linked to community ecology theory yet is notably grounded in fundamental attributes of her study organisms.”

In addition to having an impressive body of influential literature, Litchman is involved in several large-scale projects and initiatives both in the United States and abroad. She sits on several advisory boards, including Denmark’s Centre for Ocean Life and AQUACOSM, the European network of mesocosm facilities. Litchman has also been honored with an NSF CAREER Award (2009), PECASE Award (2010), and the Petersen Foundation Excellence Professorship Award, Germany (2017).

“This is a very high honor,” said Tom Getty, IBIO chair. “The list of past recipients is a Who’s Who of the world’s most famous people in the fields of Limnology and Oceanography. One of Elena’s predecessors, Robert (Bob) Wetzel, built his career and reputation for leadership at KBS and IBIO. Elena will fit right in with this galaxy of stars. Congratulations Elena!”

Litchman will receive her award at the 2021 ASLO Aquatic Sciences Virtual Meeting in June.

ASLO is an international aquatic science society that was founded in 1948. For more than 60 years, it has been the leading professional organization for researchers and educators in the field of aquatic science. With more than 3,800 members worldwide, the society has earned an outstanding reputation and is best known for its journals, interdisciplinary meetings, and special symposia.

Story via College of Natural Science 

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